A few days ago, I started to have cravings. For beautiful things I’d seen recently: a ruby-red glass candle holder; Moroccan tea glasses; black felt coasters with lace-like edges; expensive body products made from exotic ingredients; one-of-a-kind hand-made earrings and pendants; a skirt made from pieces of antique kimonos etc.
As soon as I started to crave one thing and felt that I HAD to have it, another one caught my eye and I felt I HAD to have that. And on it went.
Of course, in western capitalist societies, Christmas is the time craving (and succumbing to it) reaches its peak.
Even those of us (like me) who consider ourselves immune to the manipulation of advertising and collective pressure to participate in the excesses of the season, are susceptible to it.
But is craving such a bad thing? After all, we’re not killing anyone; we just want things that we think we’ll derive some enjoyment from.
Perhaps, put like that, it isn’t. But when you consider the eBay research that claims that last year, $37 billion was spent Australia-wide on Christmas, $8.9 billion of which was spent on gifts ($978 million worth were apparently unwanted), then you have to start wondering what’s going on.
Let me say that even though I’m not that into Christmas, I’m not against it either. There are certain aspects of it I enjoy the festive feel, the socialising and the excuse to eat excessively.
However, the sheer volume of money spent and goods bought last year got me thinking.
Is it absolutely necessary to spend so much money on things many of us don’t even want when there are people in our community who just manage to have enough food?
When a billion people in the world live without clean water? When the packaging the things come in, let alone the actual things themselves, are damaging to the environment?
I’m not suggesting that Christmas shouldn’t be celebrated or that people should stop buying things or that we should just have bread and water on Christmas Day.
I’m just suggesting that we are aware of what we are doing and why.
And perhaps reflect on the Buddhist notion that craving is one of the main causes of human suffering because, it is believed we can never be completely satisfied.
We crave something, we get it, we crave something bigger/shinier/more expensive/more advanced/more whatever; we get that, we crave something bigger /shinier/more expensive/ more advanced, we get that, we crave something even bigger/even shinier/ even more advanced/even more expensive and on it goes, constantly looking to the next thing we crave, rather than fully appreciating what we have (especially intangible things).
We go ‘round and ‘round this cyclical treadmill, driving ourselves batty trying to keep up with our ever-increasing cravings, unable to get off. Surely, there can’t be anything satisfying about that.
Vicky Tsaconas is a freelance writer, poet and arts administrator.